Nova Scotia labour survey shows growing problems in construction industry

A labour market survey of more than 1,400 people in the construction industry has produced some interesting results.

1,400 people have been surveyed over last 18 months

The purpose of the labour market survey was to identify factors holding back growth in the construction industry. (CBC)

A labour market survey of more than 1,400 people, which set out to identify factors holding back growth in Nova Scotia's construction industry, has produced some interesting results.

The survey took place between January 2014 and May 2015. It included 783 construction workers, 111 employers, 502 NSCC students and apprentices, as well as 17 union business managers. 

Of the college students who participated, 51 per cent said they plan to leave the province for higher-paying jobs after graduating. 

Trent Soholt, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council, says even though many academic publications say trades opportunities are plentiful, that may not always be the case.

Trent Soholt says young people interested in trades should pursue a career that suits them, not one that advertises the most job opportunities. (CBC)

"There's more than just going to the community college, there's more than just going directly into industry. Getting the right trade for yourself is the best thing to do," he said.  

He said the predicted retirement rates of five to ten years ago don't match today's reality.

"It's not saying there isn't going to be opportunities, it's just that those opportunities might not be in what people tend to think they're going to be in." 

Soholt says the best ways for young people to find out what trade will suit them best are to check out the Building Features for Youth Program through the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, as well as through his own organization. 

The survey shows 27 is the average age at which people are entering trades programs offered by the community college. Women make up about thirty per cent of students, compared with ten per cent working at construction sites.

Ten quick facts

The industry is down 9.2 per cent across the province this year from 2014. In Halifax, permits are down one per cent despite an 11 per cent increase in multi-residential and commercial buildings being constructed. 

The following facts are from the Nova Scotia Construction Sector Council and ATN Consulting:

  1. 34 per cent of construction workers say they are under-employed and worked less than they wanted over past two years
  2. Retirement is ten or more years away for 78 per cent of workers surveyed
  3. 58 per cent of construction workers are willing to commute outside Atlantic Canada for work
  4. 51 per cent of NSCC students surveyed plan to move away after graduation
  5. 38 per cent of  NSCC students surveyed expect to make more than $20 starting wage
  6. 75 per cent of employers say better job prospects outside Nova Scotia are an issue when recruiting
  7. 51 per cent of employers expect workers to have certificate of qualification before hiring
  8. Employers and unionized business managers foresee no immediate labour shortages
  9. Business managers say lower wages here than elsewhere could affect future labour supply
  10. 91 per cent construction workers are male. Their average age is 53 years 


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